Plundering the secrets in the state archives


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A talk by Christine Yeats at the Port Macquarie and Districts Family History Society Fair 21 May 2011

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Plundering the secrets in the state archives

  1. 1. Plundering the secrets buried deep in the State archives Tips and tactics for overcoming some of the ‘brick walls’ using the NSW State archives
  2. 2. Some typical brick walls <ul><li>No record of a person’s arrival in NSW </li></ul><ul><li>Convicts who simply disappear (elusive convicts) </li></ul><ul><li>Information recorded in official sources (shipping and BDM) that leads to false assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>Gaps in the information about your ancestors’ lives </li></ul><ul><li>Family skeletons… </li></ul>
  3. 3. Some tips and reminders… <ul><li>NOT all records are digitised and available online </li></ul><ul><li>NOT all records are indexed on the internet </li></ul><ul><li>Not everything on the Internet is TRUE </li></ul><ul><li>Not everything in the records is TRUE </li></ul><ul><li>DO check all indexes (online and other) </li></ul><ul><li>DO check the records (not just the index!) </li></ul><ul><li>DO record your findings </li></ul><ul><li>It NEVER hurts to retrace your research steps </li></ul><ul><li>DON’T assume anything! </li></ul><ul><li>ALWAYS expect the unexpected! </li></ul>
  4. 4. They must have swum here! <ul><li>Arrival records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Go back over your research checking for any clue that you may have overlooked in the past. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are you relying on ‘a family story’, BDM records or someone else’s family tree? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 1: There are a great many shipping indexes and resources available (online and other) – recheck these and refer to digitised copies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 2: Sometimes there will be no arrival records BUT other sources may help </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. No arrival records in about? <ul><li>Check if there are departure records as many of these have been indexed and are available online </li></ul><ul><li>Check the UK and US Census records now online to try to narrow down a departure date </li></ul>
  6. 6. Don’t forget about… <ul><li>The shipping records of the Australian Agricultural Company. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: See Pure Merinos and Others </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Immigration Deposit Journals (NRS 5264) </li></ul><ul><li>Registers of Free Railway Passes, 1880-92, NRS 5283 </li></ul><ul><li>Musters and Papers of Convict Ships, 1790-1849 NRS 1155 </li></ul><ul><li>Ships’ deserters </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Check Jim Melton Ships Deserters, 1852-1900 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Naturalisation records, 1834-1903 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Check the online index </li></ul></ul><ul><li>AND the Colonial Secretary’s correspondence 1788+ </li></ul><ul><li>Tip: Check the online index to the Colonial Secretary’s papers, 1788-1825, later the microfilm indexes from 1826+as well as Joan Reese’s indexes </li></ul>
  7. 7. Elusive convicts <ul><li>Colonial offences </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Secondary transportation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Corporal punishment (Road/Iron Gangs) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Gaol records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: See Archives in Brief 82 and Archives Investigator for a list of gaols </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Name changes can be difficult to locate unless you have documents confirming a person’s dual identity. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Try searching other branches of your ancestor’s family. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cherchez la femme (tracing female convicts) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Search the Permissions to marry and the online BDM indexes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Convict exiles’ </li></ul>
  8. 8. Misleading or incomplete information <ul><li>Sometimes official records contain inaccurate or incomplete information that can lead to false assumptions and months of unsuccessful searching. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shipping records where a person has put his/her age down or up in order to qualify for assisted passage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>BDM records where details such as birthplace, age, length of time in the colony or parents’ names are not correct </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Use all records at your disposal to build an accurate history of the person but always check your sources </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. What did they do and where did they go? <ul><li>A select list of sources </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Old Register’, 1794-1824 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Missing persons’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Settling on the land </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Fallen on hard times…’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 1: Note any prolonged or unexplained absences from the family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 2: Check Electoral Rolls and published directories </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Registers of assignments and other legal instruments, 1794-1824 (‘Old Register’) <ul><li>‘ The register was proclaimed in 1802 but allowed people to register assignments and other legal instruments back to 1794…’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: These agreements range from land transactions to domestic legal matters </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These registers show registration number, names of parties and nature of agreement. </li></ul><ul><li>The Old register on CD ROM is available for sale from State Records </li></ul>
  11. 11. ‘ Missing persons’ <ul><li>Police Gazettes </li></ul><ul><li>Gaol records </li></ul><ul><li>Divorce records </li></ul><ul><li>Enquiries by detective police </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NRS 10968, Register of enquiries made by the detective police, 1859-83 [4/5719; reel 3041] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Government asylums (‘Behind closed doors’) </li></ul><ul><li>Childcare and protection (‘Lost Children’) </li></ul>
  12. 12. Police Gazettes <ul><li>Police Gazettes (NRS 10958),1862-1962 contain information about crimes committed, criminals wanted, criminals apprehended, prisoners discharged, persons on good behaviour bonds, missing persons, and police appointments and promotions. </li></ul><ul><li>Police Gazettes over 70 years old are open to public access </li></ul><ul><li>Microfilm copies for 1862-1930 in both reading rooms </li></ul><ul><li>Digital copies for the years 1867-1900 are online </li></ul><ul><li>Tip: The Police Gazette took over the role of reporting ships deserters from 1862. See the Government Gazette for desertions 1852-62. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Gaol inmates <ul><li>Start with Archives in Brief 82 – Records of gaol inmates </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Records of gaol inmates are open to public access after 70 years </li></ul></ul><ul><li>For further information about State archives relating to gaol inmates consult Archives Investigator, under Agency 1 (Corrective Services) or using the name of the gaol. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Use the Advanced Search option </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Check the online index to gaol photograph description books </li></ul>
  14. 14. Searching for records of divorces in NSW <ul><li>NRS 13495, Divorce case papers, 1873-1930 and 1970s </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Family Law (Divorce) Index, 1873-1976 (Available in both reading rooms on microfiche - Fiche 6130-6410) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>See also the online index on State Records’ website covering 1873 (ongoing) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>See Archives Investigator for lists of case papers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Related records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Court Reporting Office: Transcripts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Judges Notebooks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Up until the end of 1983 the original marriage certificate was annotated when a marriage was dissolved. Marriage certificates are held by the Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Searching for ancestors ‘behind closed doors’ <ul><li>Accessing patient identifying records </li></ul><ul><li>Government asylums in the 19 th century – typical records </li></ul><ul><li>Childcare and protection in the 19 th century </li></ul>Entrance gate to Gladesville Hospital
  16. 16. Government asylums - Typical records <ul><li>Control records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Indexes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Registers of admissions/discharges or deaths </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Case papers </li></ul><ul><li>Medical case books </li></ul><ul><li>Admission files </li></ul><ul><li>Tip 1: Not all these categories of records have survived </li></ul><ul><li>Tip 2: See Archives In Brief 85: Mental health facilities - Patient records and Archives In Brief 86: Infirm and destitute asylums - Inmate records for further information </li></ul>
  17. 17. Children in care…[and lost from view] <ul><li>The Government’s administration of child welfare in the nineteenth century was based on the ‘custodial model’. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 1: See Archives in Brief 59 - Child care and protection and Archives in Brief 66 - Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 2: See State Records online indexes to Orphan Schools etc. (Not all the records have been indexed) and other published indexes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 3: See the online index to the Sydney Benevolent Asylum (admissions and discharges, 1857-1900) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 4: (Orphan Schools, Randwick Asylum and the Vernon and Sobraon) </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Childcare and protection – dates and institutions <ul><li>Orphan Schools </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Female Orphan School, 1801-50 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Male orphan School, 1819-50 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Roman Catholic Orphan School, 1836-86 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Protestant Orphan School, 1850-86 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children, 1852-1916 </li></ul><ul><li>Vernon , 1867-92 and Sobraon , 1892-1911 </li></ul><ul><li>Newcastle Public Industrial School and Reformatory (1867-71) </li></ul><ul><li>Shaftesbury Reformatory, 1880-1904 </li></ul><ul><li>Farm Home for Boys Mittagong, 1906+ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Boarding-out’, 1881+ </li></ul>
  19. 19. Access to patient identifying records <ul><li>Records that are more than 110 years old </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Records created more than 110 years ago are open to public access . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Researchers can access the records at the Western Sydney Reading Room . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Records that are less than 110 years old </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Patient identifying medical records created less than 110 years ago are closed to public access. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Researchers must obtain the permission of the NSW Health Department before accessing these records. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: The records of the Liverpool Asylum are open to public access </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Access to childcare and protection records <ul><li>Community Services has made access directions that close case files from general public access for 100 years and registers to case files for 80 years. Most administrative records are open to public access after 30 years. </li></ul><ul><li>The Department provides individuals free access to their own records. Community Services' website contains information for individuals wishing to access their own records and for those seeking to use the records for other research purposes. See: . </li></ul>
  21. 21. Settling on the land <ul><li>Land grants, leases and depasturing licences… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 1: Check Archives In Brief 22 - Occupation of Crown Land prior to 1856 and Archives In Brief 23 - Land grants prior to 1856 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 2: Check State Records’ online indexes to land records </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conditional Purchase </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Refer to Archives In Brief 93 - Background to conditional purchase of Crown land and Archives In Brief 94 - Using conditional purchase records </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Soldier settlement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip: Refer to State Records’ online indexes relating to Soldier Settlement </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. ‘ Fallen on hard times…’ <ul><li>‘ Bad debts’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Insolvency (1842-87) and bankruptcy (1888-1928) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 1: Check the online indexes on State Records website </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tip 2: Check Archives In Brief 58 - Bankruptcy and insolvency records </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Unemployment </li></ul><ul><li>Tip 1: Check the Registers of the unemployed, 1860 and 1884 (NRS 5281, [4/4677, 4/4687 ]) </li></ul><ul><li>Tip 2: Check the Register of free railway passes for the unemployed (NRS 5283) </li></ul><ul><li>Tip 3: These have been indexed by Pastkeys. </li></ul>